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Key Starting Hand Concepts

  Generally speaking you should think of all your starting hands as being one of two types of hands:

  1. Big cards distribution that will stand up with little improvement against a small field, and
  2. Cards that are a draw to a straight or a flush where you would prefer to play against a large field so you would win a big pot if you do hit your hand.

The first thing you should do when looking at your first two cards is to mentally classify them as either a folding, calling or raising hand, depending on your position.  As yourself if you would rather play this hand against one or ten players.  The answer to that question will tell you what you want to do when the action comes to you.
Keep in mind that players who entered the pot before you are not likely to fold when you raise before the flop. On the other hand, the earlier your position is, the more players you will knock out when you raise before their turn, because now they have to call two bets.  If you just call, then your money in the pot encourages more calls behind you and you should have a hand you prefer to play with many players to see the flop.  The earlier your position is, the stronger your hand has to be because of the possibility of raises behind you.

One sure way to tell if you’re playing hands too weak for your position is by how you instantly and involuntarily react when you’ve limped in an early position and it’s raised behind you.  If you don’t mind then you’re probably playing good cards for your position.  But if it’s raised and you’re cussing the raiser under your breath, then you should take that as a hint that you’re playing too loose for your position.
  When you raise with big cards in the pocket, you’re limiting the size of the final pot but you’re increasing your chances of winning the hand.  in a ten-handed game you will win 10% of the hands, on average.  In a two-handed game you will win 50% of the hands, on average.  Limping in and allowing a large field to see the flop or raising to get it head-up is a trade-off between pot size and chance of winning the hand.
  Hold’em hands are not only valuable for how much money they can earn you but they are also valuable for how much money they can save you.  Compare A♦ A♥ with A♠ K♣
  Let’s say that you win 100 total bets with each hand.  With A♦ A♥ you lose 40 bets to other hands for a net win of 60 bets.  With A♠ K♣ in the pocket you win the same 100 bets as with A♦ A♥ but because you don’t make anything on the flop you throw it away and you lose only 30 bets with it for a net win of 70 bets.
  The problem (if there is one) with A♦ A♥ in the pocket is that after the flop you still have at least a pair of Aces to continue playing with.  That’s not true with A♠ K♣ and that’s what makes it easier to lose less money with it.  That is why, in my opinion, a♠ K♣ is sometimes more valuable to me than a pair of Aces in the pocket.
  This same line of reasoning applies to hands like 5♠ 4♠ and 5♥ 4♦. You can make your flush and lose a Lot of easy gaming Money but the hand is easier to throw away if it’s not suited and you don’t flop anything.
  One way to decide for yourself if you have a good hand or not after the flop is to try this simple exercise.

  1. Look at your hand and ask yourself what kind of flop or flops you would like to see.
  2. Now look at the flop without considering what you just did and ask yourself what kinds of hands would go well with a flop like this.

If you find that the flop fits your hand and your hand fits the flop, then you have an excellent hand.  If the flop doesn’t fit your hand and / or your hand doesn’t fit the flop, then you might have a problem hand and you certainly shouldn’t bet money on it.  Wait for a better hand.  you should get in the habit of doing this with every hand you play.
  Your hand is even stronger when you use both of your pocket cards to make your Poker Hand.  You will usually have the best hand and another player will have to have been dealt the exact same cards as you just to have a split pot.
  Look at this example of the power of using both of your hole cards: You have K♥ J♣ in the pocket and the board is Q♦ T♠ 9♥ 8♣ 3♥.  You have the nuts and you don’t even have to worry about a split pot because another player would have to be holding exactly a King and a Jack.  The odds are against another player holding exactly two specific cards to beat or tie you.
  But what it that last card, the 3♥, was instead the K♣ ?  Now, all anyone would need to split the pot with you would be a Jack, and it’s pretty likely to have a split pot because you’re using only one of your cards, the J♣, and it’s easy for anyone to hold just a Jack.

  Understanding the importance of position is so critical in this game that it means the difference between winning and losing with the same cards.  Hands that are playable and are winners in late position are often unplayable and losers in earlier positions.
  If you are first, second or third to act after the dealer, then you are said to be in early position.  This is also called being up front.  If you are the dealer, or one or two seats to the right of the dealer, then you are in late position.  The players after early position and before late position (and normally sitting directly across the table from the dealer) are in middle position.
  Not all poker hands are created equal and their relative values depends on your position.  K♥ 9♥ in the first seat after the big blind is worth a lot less than if you had the same hand in last position.  When you play that type of hand (or any hand) up front, you can never be sure if there will be a raise behind you are not, forcing you to play the hand for two bets or more when it is worth only one bet.

  What they say are the three most important things regarding real estate (location, location and location), also applies to Hold’em: position, position and position.
  Position is so important that it is the one thing that you will have to take into consideration when deciding whether or not to play each hand of poker that you are going to play for the rest of your poker playing life.  Your position is so important that it is the major factor that determines when you can play a hand and when you can’t.
  You need to know, before calling that initial bet, how many players before you have called and how many players after you might call or raise behind you.  The more players that there are left to act behind you, the more likely it is that there will be raise.  This is true for all forms of poker but it is especially true for Hold’em because Hold’em , when correctly played, is an aggressive, raising game.
  Each player in turn behind you can correctly play progressively weaker and weaker hands because there are fewer players behind him who might raise.  The number of potential raisers is reduced with each player who passes or calls.  If you have a weak, or less than a premium hand, you certainly would rather see the flop for only one bet than for two bets or more.
  Your position in Hold’em is also important because it does not change during the course of the hand.  being first to act for four betting rounds is a distinct disadvantage because you normally have no idea how many players will call or raise behind you until it happens.  On the other hand, being last to act for four consecutive betting rounds is one of the biggest advantages you could have without everybody actually showing you their cards.  By the time the action gets to you they will have, in effect, shown you their cards anyway.  You will at least know how they feel about their hands by the way they have checked, bet, raised or reraised with their hands.
  If you’re last, every player in the game will have to act on his hand for four rounds without knowing what you’re going to do.   You, on the other hand, won’t have to act on your hand until you’re seen what everyone else has done with theirs.  When you’re last to act, you’re in a powerful position.  You can save money by folding when someone else has called a bet ahead of you, or you can raise when you have the best hand.

Early Position
  When you are in  early position, the type of hands that you can play is restricted to high cards, hands that clearly have a high expectation of winning, hands that will win with little or no improvement, or if you have drawing cards like A♥ Q♥, hands that still have a chance to win if you miss your draw.  You can miss your♥ draw and still win with a pair of Aces or Queens.  The hands you play up front should be able to stand a raise behind you if it comes.
  These are the only hands that you can profitably play from early position in a low limit game:

Early Position Hands
 A♦ A♥ , K♣ K♠ , Q♣ Q♦ , a♥ K♥,
A♦ Q♦, a♣ K♦ , a♥ Q♠

  As you become a more Experienced Hold’em Poker Player and gain a deeper insight into the subtleties of the game there are several other hands that you can add to this early position starting hand list.  This is also true for the following middle and late position starting hand list and these added hands will be covered later in the book.
  Anything else, no matter how pretty it books, is not profitable played in an early position in a low limit game.

Middle Position
  While playing in middle position you will usually have a few callers in front of  you already in the pot and you’ll have a few more potential callers behind you.  Because the chance of a raise is somewhat reduced and there are already several players in the pot, you are getting better odds to play somewhat weaker hands and you will often be getting the correct odds to play drawing hands like J♣ T♣.

  Also realize that if you call, it raises the pot odds for the players behind you and make s it more correct for them to play weaker hands.  For example, a player who is last with T♠ 9♥ cannot play if there are only one or two players in the pot.  He just doesn’t have the right odds to draw to the hand.  But if you call in middle position with something like K♦ T♦, you might have induced the player on your left to call because he has one more player in the pot (you) and the pot is slightly bigger.  This in turn starts a domino effect where each player calls a bigger pot and odds one bet to it.  Now the last player might be getting 6 to 1 on his bet and can now play his T♠♥. 
  The effect of calling in early and middle position is that it induces players to play weaker hands behind you, especially in low limit Hold’em.  This increases the size of the pot if you win, but it reduced your overcall chances of winning percentage the pot to begin with.
  Here is the list of hands that you can play in middle position, in addition to the Early Position List:

Middle Position Hands
J♠ J♥ , T♦ T♣ , 9♣ 9♦, 8♥ 8♠, a ♣ J♣ , a ♦ T ♦ A ♥ 9 ♥
K ♠ Q ♠, K♣ J♣ , Q ♦ J ♦ , Q ♥ T ♥ , a♣ J ♦ , a ♥ T ♠
A♦ 9♥ , K♠ K♥ , K♦ J♣, K♦ T♠ , Q♣ J♥ , Q♥ T♦

Late Position & Playing the Button
  When you have the button it simply means that you are in the dealer’s position and will be the last to act on each round of betting on that hand.  As mentioned earlier, being last to act for four consecutive betting rounds is a major advantage.  When it’s time for you to act on your hand, you’ll be the most informed player in the game.  Another big advantage is that if there were no rises , then only the blinds can raise the pot.

  Here’s an “on the button” tip: If you have a genuine borderline calling hand and would play it only if you knew the blinds would not raise, then this is what you should do.  Pause when the action gets to you and take a look to see what the blinds are doing.  Most of the time in low limit Hold’em the blinds will not be aware of the importance of concealing their intentions and they will often already have their chips in hand, ready to raise, when the option gets back around to them.  Does he have in his hand the correct number of chips to raise or does he have his hand ready to tap the table in a checking motion?  Sometimes, the blind will actually say “check” while waiting for you to act on your hand.
  The most important thing to keep in mind when playing the button is not to play hands just because you’re on the button.  This is where too many low limit players lose too much of their money.  They get trapped with hands that they have absolutely no business playing.  Too many players think they can play any hand they want and can get in for only one bet.  If it’s incorrect to play a hand, the fact that you can play it for only one bet and you can play it on the button doesn’t make the hand any better.  You should not play any hand on the button that you wouldn’t play one or two seats to the right it.

  The secret to playing the button is to realize that it does not increase the odds of your cards making the best hand just because you are last to act.  It does not change ordinarily losing hands into winners.  At best, being on the button allows you to limp in with hands that you would not want to call a raise with.  After that, it lets you get in an extra bet when you want to or your hand warrants.
  While we’re on the subject of playing the button, there is a tell that is related to the button that I have found to be very reliable, especially in low limit Hold’em.  When a player is last and he starts handling, moving or otherwise adjusting the button, it usually means he intends to call just because he’s on the button.  The value of this tell is in the fact that it tells you what he doesn’t  have rather than what he does have.
  A player who has  A♦ A♥, K♥ K♣ , Q♠ Q♦ , or  A♣ K ♠ on the button will be very still and not make any movements that will draw attention to himself.  He’s going to be so intent on watching the action as it comes to him that he may not even put his cards down, let alone play with the button.  He almost certainly does not have two high cards in the pocket and he probably has something that he considers to be a garbage hand but he’s going to play just because he’s on the button.  You can usually treat him like a blind hand unless you have evidence otherwise.
  The hands that you can play in late position, including the Early Position List and the middle Position List are :

Late Position Hands
7♠ 7♥, 6♦ 6♣, 5 ♣ 5♦ , 4♥ 4 ♠, 3 ♦ 3♥, 2 ♠ 2♥, a ♠ 8♠ ,A♣ 7♣ , a ♦ 6♦, a ♥ 5♥, a ♠ 4♠ , a♣ 3♣ , a ♦ 2♦ , K ♣ T ♣ ,
K ♦ 9♦ , Q ♥ 9♥, Q ♠ 8♠, J ♣ T ♣ , J ♦ 9♦ , T ♦ 9♦
9♥ 8♥, K♣ 9♦, Q ♥ 9♣ , J ♠ T ♦

  These aren’t the only hands you’ll ever play in Hold’em.  They’re just the only ones that will show a profit for their position in the long run.  In a ten-handed game you’ll be in the blind 20% of the time and that’s when you’ll get to play most of the other hands.
  Just like it’s important to play cards appropriate for your position, it’s important that you don’t get in the habit of playing cards that are not appropriate for your position.  The most common example you’ll see in a low limit game of “playing out of position” is to see a eliminate players poker play a hand in early position just because it’s on his list of hands to play in late position.  He thinks it’s okay to play Q♦ 8♥ in the first seat after the big blind just because he plays the same hand on the button.  In other words, he totally disregards his position when electing to play a hand.

  This is one way that you make your profit from this game.  Your profit comes from the mistakes your opponents make.  You’ll suffer some bad beats from players playing bad cards in bad positions but if you consistently make the right decisions and have a long term view of the game, you’ll get’em in the end.

All-in Strategies
  You should be aware of the fact when you, or another player don’t have enough checks to play a hand all the way to the end of the hand, and therefore will have to go all-in.  If you’re not going to buy more checks and know you’ll probably have to go all-in on the next hand you play, then you should choose that hand as carefully as you can, considering how many hands you can look at before the big blind gets to you.  Here are several important tips to keep in mind if you might go all-in.